It was a case of one stage too many for the 4 Birmingham teams that had qualified for the semi final stage of the Peoples Cup, 3 Walking Football Teams and our Ladies Walkers turned over 35 vets all put up spirited, if not totally successful displays . Our ladies team, with an average age of over 50 did themselves no disservice with a very credible showing against many players 20 years their junior. Finishing with one win one draIw and two losses was unfortunately not enough to progress to the later stages. Goals from (Truley (2) and Alli) were simply not enough for the girls as they adapted their walking game to the normal 5 a side football extremely well.
With three teams in the mens tournament out of eight qualifiers Birmingham were hopeful of progressing to the finals day for the fourth consecutive year. Birmingham Whites started impressively as they beat Shrewsbury 3-2 with two goals from Richard Dawson and one from skipper Simon Dyer, unfortunately this was to be their only success as defeats to the two eventual finalists Peles Pearls and Heanor 2-0 and 4-0 respectively. In a largely inexperience tournament team a credible return against some extremely tough and in Heanor’s case a particularly aggressive opponents.
In the other group Birmingham’s over 65’s and Birmingham Blues were pitted against each other along with another team from Heanor and Holmes Chapel. The Blues started impressively as they hit the bar 3 times before going behind to a breakaway goal, a Dave Norton hat trick and one each from Dave Wright and Darren Bradley meant they were comfortable 5-1 winners. The 65’s played Holmes Chapel in a repeat of the final of the quarter finals at Stoke and unfortunately two sloppy goals put the Cheshire side ahead early on. A Derek Thorpe goal was just not enough to earn a point, in a game they dominated for long periods. Blues then dispatched Holmes Chapel in an end to end seemingly defenceless game 5-3 with Norton claiming all 5 of Birmingham’s goals. The game was marred with a major injury to stalwart Andy Struthers which left him collapsed and in need of a visit to hospital The 65’s ran out 3-1 winners against Heanor with an own goal and one each from Thorpe and Barry Huntingdon. In their final game they met each other and after the game been close at 2-1 the Blues were eventually flattered by the 5-1 winning margin, Norton and Wright both bagging a brace and a single from Bradley.
With only the Blues through to the semi finals with a 100% record, they met the extremely physical Heanor, and with several niggling injuries and no substitutes available due to Struthers hospitalisation they ran out of steam with a 1-0 loss to the Derby outfit. Norton was only able to be carried off at the end due to some ridiculous challenges from the overzealous opponents.
Afterwards skipper David Castle commented, “It’s been really tough today, Andy’s injury meant we played most the tournament with only 5 which is really hard and some of the challenges we faced in the semis were just beyond belief. It’s so difficult for the referees as the players just don’t help, ours told me he’d never refereed walking football before, it’s a shame because what should be one of the premier competitions and has great exposure on the BBC is not a great advert for the game“.